A person’s will is their ability to take an idea spawned within their mind and manifest it into this world. A fortune is a collection of divinely delivered gifts of this earth, bestowed upon a person through the universal laws of attraction. To have a “will of fortune” is to seize this planetary opportunity to receive your gifts and use them as tools for creating a greater good in the world.
A Will of Fortune is the latest album from T.Calmese, released in August 2011 to a number of positive reviews from music critics. A native Detroit emcee, T.Calmese, aka Illite, has over a decade of experience in hip hop, and is now coming into his own as an artist on the verge of breaking out to a larger international audience.
A veteran of the Subterraneous Records crew, T.Calmese is now collaborating as a part of the DH2 Tour, a collective of Detroit artists coming together to deliver the gospel of Motown hip hop, including 87, 5 ELA, Kodac aka M80, The Regiment and Nick Speed. A Will Of Fortune is available for purchase at http://tcalmese.bandcamp.com.
Common Breath Media: Whutupdoe T.Calmese, please introduce yourself.
T.Calmese: Whutupdoe, this is your boy T Calmese, aka Illite, repping Subteranneous, repping KickSounds, keep it classy.
I’ve got a new project out, A Will of Fortune, that’s the newest release from me. I’m very proud of it. I’ve got producers on their like Nick Speed, Mr. Dibiasi from California, I’ve got Peter Parker, just trying to get with like-minded individuals who like good music, we’re just getting together having a ball with it.
CBM: You’re coming from the Subterraneous camp, but you’re repping Detroit, not Pontiac, correct?
T.Calmese: The misconeption is that because I came up with the Subterraneous camp, OneBeLo, Decompoze, Maliki, those are all Pontiac residents, so by association cats are like “oh he’s from Pontiac”, but actually I’m from Detroit. I’ve got a lot of love up in Pontiac, Pontiac is like the second home, along with Ann Arbor, Flint. But I’m from Detroit, west side.
CBM: How did you get your start as an emcee?
T.Calmese: I was inspired around the ’94/’95 era, a lot of my friends started rhyming around that era, they were putting me on to different kind of music. I was listening to the West Coast kings at the time, like NWA, Snoop, Cube, then I got put on to Tribe. Then things really changed once I got hip to Slum Village and Dilla and Proof. I saw cats from my city that was actually doing some game changing stuff. It inspired me.
I used to always play around on the rap shit, freestyling here and there, but then really started to take it serious. Hooked up with OneBeLo, Majestic Legend. Me, Majestic Legend and Nick Speed, we went to high school together.
We used to always fuck around, we had a crew called 9 to 5. It was Majestic Legend, Nick Speed and my man Ski. Then after a while the 9 to 5 colony transformed to Majestic Legend, Nick Speed and Elzhi. I was just inspired and then after a while, around 2000, I found myself in studios. Then we recorded Waterworld 2 album with Subterraneous. During that process was when I started taking my craft more serious, started studying my craft more, started trying to find my voice as an artist.
It went crazy from there, started doing a whole bunch of shows around Michigan, we went to Seattle, Minneapolis. Started getting around a little bit, getting a little love from people that actually responded to it. People were really responding to what I had to say, I didn’t know people would fuck with my story, but clearly they do, so I just kept going.
CBM: You also came up in hip hop partnering with Ro Spit as Octane and Illite.
T.Calmese: That was a spawn of the Subterraneous camp. We just clicked. We were recording our solo albums and looked up and found we had done a whole bunch of songs together, we figured we might as well do an album together. So we did it, and we were surprised by the chemistry we had together. That turned into another slew of shows and adventures. It was very fun, shout out to Ro. He’s doing his thing right now. The shoe store Burn Rubber is crazy.
CBM: He’s definitely doing his thing in Detroit with Burn Rubber. Did you see Ro Spit going that direction?
T.Calmese: To be honest, I always saw Ro doing that, because out of all of us, Ro was the most fashion saavy out the crew. He was always putting me up on stuff, I remember when he bought these Heineken Dunks. They were Nikes, but they were themed off of Heineken beer. That was the first time I’d ever seen a shoe based on another product. So I always saw him going in that direction, so it wasn’t a surprise when he told me he copped a shoe store. I rep my peoples.
T.Calmese: Honestly, that’s the whole concept behind that project. I recorded the majority of those songs for A Will Of Fortune probably a year before it actually came out, but I always had that title. My grandma and my people’s like that show, “Wheel of Fortune”. I always thought that was a dope title, but I wanted to put my spin on it with “will”, refering to drive, my own abilities.
Prior to that I came out with a project with Vaughn T from Athletic Mic League based out of Ann Arbor, and we just had fun and did an album called New Jack Kings, and that came along the process while I was recording for A Will Of Fortune. That got a lot of good reviews, it was real different. We took a lot of 1990s R&B songs that we grew up off of and made rap songs.
For A Will of Fortune, I just wanted a real focused feel for this project.
CBM: And Detroit is getting it’s shine right now with so many different artists on the national scene, like Royce Da 5’9″ and Black Milk. It seems like they’re out there paving roads of opportunity for artists like yourself.
T.Calmese: I got so much respect for Royce, first of all that was one of the dudes that I would listen to back in the day, like him, Elzhi, 5 ELA, Breakfast Club with Big Tone, Lacks (aka Ta’Raach) and 87, Beej. It’s certain cats that directly inspired me, and it’s so good to see Royce get attention like that on a national level. Number one, he’s one of the sickest out of anybody, Royce is on whole other planet. I feel like listening to his music I kind of know him. One of my favorite albums by him is Death Is Certain. I could tell he was at a really dark place at the time, but still finding himself. But one thing about him is he just kept going, so it’s good to see him finally getting that attention.